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Tattooing is an ancient art form. This page traces the history of tattooing in prehistoric times.

Tattooing In Prehistoric Times

Tattooing is basically a body art, through which people accentuate and enhance the look of the body. Though quite common in the present times, did you know that this body art has its roots firmly laid in the prehistoric era? Surprised? Tattooing has a history that goes back till the Neolithic ages. An age old practice, people from various cultures would flaunt tattoos on their bodies for different reasons, even in those times. This can be proven from the fact that the different mummified bodies, which were discovered in the recent years, also had traces of tattoos on them. In the primitive age, tattoos were engraved on parts of body for mainly therapeutic measures. It is known that tattooing was basically used, as a treatment for people suffering from rheumatism or arthritis. Apart from medicinal purpose, tattoos were also impressed on the body for spiritual reasons.

Prehistoric Tattooing

Egyptian Tattoos
From the time of approximately 4000-3500 B.C., there are enough evidences to show that women were tattooed in the Egyptian culture. Even the tools that were extracted from Gurob town site in northern Egypt were tattooed. There are already evidences of Egyptian tattooing from the mummies discovered from the pyramids. Historical studies reveal that from the 11 dynasty in Egypt, many mummies were found to have been inked before or after their burial. Their basic style in tattooing was some simple median lines made horizontally and vertically across the human body and then decorated with simple dots and line, symbolizing the flow of life and energy in the body of a human being. Also it was the representation of the gods and goddesses. There are documented records found from Amunet, especially of a priestess, that tattooing was very prevalent amongst the common people of the Egyptian culture. The priestessís body was found inked with lines and dots across her body. It is interesting to notice how Egyptians used tattooing as a therapeutic measure. The dots and lines used in engraving these tattoos were supposedly aimed at following the blood flow of the body. This was their effort to unite the energy or life flow of the human body with the celestial or spiritual energy flow. Since there wasnít a proper textual language invented until then, these pictorial depictions through tattoos was an initiative from the side of Egyptians to communicate, even though they were only communicating with the supposed celestial world comprising of gods and goddesses. The new era historians believe that tattooing was a practice prevalent in Egypt to mark the prostitutes while there is another school of thought that believes that Egyptians used tattooing for medicinal purposes, as a therapy for the pregnant women.

European Tattoos
The oldest mummy ever found with tattoos dates back to 3300 B.C. and it was named as Otzi the iceman. His body was considered to have been covered in therapeutic tattoos made out of soot and saliva. His body was found to have at least 57 tattoos on various positions. It was concluded that his tattoos were related to a ritual practiced in the ancient times were tattooing was used as a procedure to provide pain relief from chronic diseases. Celtic and other European tribes were supposedly into the practice of tattooing. They used to tattoo their bodies with the dye made out of dark blue woad.

The Man of Pazyryk (the Scythian chief) discovered in Russia, was also tattooed with therapeutic dots lined up along the spinal column (lumbar region) and around the right ankle. Tattoos from different ages revealed some interesting and exciting facts. Much credit is given to the tattoos, as it was because of them that historians were able to attain information about the Neolithic ages.

Asian Tattoos
The Tarim Basin in the Western part of China, Xingjian Province also revealed several tattooed mummies of a European physical type. Though relatively unknown, the mummies found in the region could date from the end of the 2nd millennium BC. It will be surprising for you to know that the tattoos revealed during this age were very different from each other. As per historical records, the mummies are known to have a western physical form. Three tattooed mummies (dated back to the 300 BC) were extracted from the permafrost of Altai Mountains in second half of the 20th century. There were three mummies - one female and two males. Their tattooing involved animal designs repertory. The designing was carried out in a curvilinear style, to make the tattoo look fascinating and appealing.

Tattooing As A Source Of Acupuncture
There are documented proofs to show how tattooing was used for acupunctural and therapeutic purposes in the pre-historic era. This is the reason why many mummies from Egypt and China were found to have dots or lines tattooed on them, especially on the positions where underneath the vital organs of the body are situated.










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